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After Harper’s allegedly planned to out her identity, journalist Moira Donegan beat the magazine to its punch in January, outing herself as the creator behind the editorial world’s “Shitty Media Men List.” Now, one of the men on the list is suing Donegan, and women in journalism are coming to her aid.
The Shitty Media Men List, created as a Google Doc, circulated for about a day in October 2017 before it was shut down amid threats. Its intentions were to act as a “whisper network,” collecting allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse so women could warn each other about potential predators in journalism and publishing. Accusations were levied against over 70 men at publications ranging from the New York Times to BuzzFeed, and one of the most serious accusations on the list was aimed at Rumpus founder Stephen Elliott.
The Shitty Media Men list claims Elliott is “accused of physical sexual violence by multiple women,” according to a copy obtained by the Daily Dot. The list alleges that Elliott engaged in sexual harassment, coercion, and sexual assault.
Prior to the list’s creation, Elliott was accused of sexual harassment by author Claire Vaye Watkins, who claims he repeatedly flirted with her and attempted to “convince” her to let him stay in her bed while crashing at her apartment. Elliott later wrote about the encounter in an email to Rumpus readers, which features “professional dismissal,” “sexual entitlement,” “gaslighting,” and treats Watkins “as property,” she alleges.
Last month, Elliot penned an essay titled “How an Anonymous Allegation Derailed My Life,” in which he details how the list has hurt his career. Since then, other women have come forward with stories about and alluding to his harassing behavior.
Hi Stephen Elliot, it's me, Lyz. Remember when I was an upaid editor at your magazine and we met at AWP where you invited me up to your room to watch a movie and I declined? But you didn't take no for an answer. You hounded me. I hid under a table. https://t.co/a66u4JmHXW— lyzzie borden lenz (@lyzl) September 25, 2018
Now, Elliot has filed a lawsuit for $1.5 million in damages over the Shitty Media Men List. The suit, which was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges that the list caused libel and emotional distress. Elliott even plans to subpoena Google for metadata on the spreadsheet’s “Jane Does” who contributed anonymously to the list with their own accusations.
“Upon information and belief, Defendants conspired to create the Google Spreadsheet entitled ‘Shitty Media Men’ and circulated the link to the List via email, without password protection, for the stated purpose of encouraging the female recipients to anonymously publish allegations of sexual misconduct by men. Plaintiff believes that information obtained in discovery will reveal the Jane Doe Defendants’ true names, addresses, and other identifying information and allow Plaintiff to amend this Complaint to state the same.”
In light of Elliott’s lawsuit, writer Lauren Hough launched a GoFundMe for Donegan’s legal fees and expenses. The fundraiser has a $500,000 goal, and any remaining donations will be given to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, she writes.
“I needed to do something,” Hough writes in the GoFundMe’s description. “This is what I could do. I know a lot of you feel the same. More than anything, I want Moira to see the army she has behind her.”
Hough’s GoFundMe has since gone viral, with over $45,000 already donated to Donegan. Journalists across Twitter have since defended Donegan and shared a link to her GoFundMe.
That’s a hell of a legacy for an already mediocre man. Here is a go fund me for Moira: https://t.co/z1FXq7WYM3— roxane gay (@rgay) October 12, 2018
Donated because fuck that shit https://t.co/sBpRixdpFd— Lilly Dancyger (@lillydancyger) October 12, 2018
If you can donate to Moira’s legal fees, please do. Especially if you’re a man who considers himself an ally. Moira is being sued for creating a list to help women in media stay safe. Let’s show her we stand with her; she shouldn’t have to bear this alone. https://t.co/lYaUVSFPHX— Britni de la Cretaz ⚾️ (@britnidlc) October 12, 2018
This is what I'm on and I'd encourage folks to consider joining me if they have the means. https://t.co/z3CjmcqRSr— Hanif Abdurraqib (@NifMuhammad) October 12, 2018
As it turns out, the Shitty Media Men list was very effective in pointing out shitty media men.— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) October 11, 2018
If you come for the person who created the shitty media men list, you come for all of us. Every woman. This isn't about a list, it's about a culture that abuses women and abuses them when they speak out against it.— lyzzie borden lenz (@lyzl) October 12, 2018
dude we’d all heard shitty things about your behavior long before the list https://t.co/DE3DMr93ve— Deirdre Coyle (@DeirdreKoala) October 11, 2018
This is awful. @MoiraDonegan is being sued over the shitty media men list, by a shitty media man. Evidently, among the causes of action cited, is "depression." The claimant can fucking listen to The National like the rest of us, and sit down. https://t.co/xzLrGq5sxl— Paler Manu Chander (@benwurgaft) October 12, 2018
How did this dude forget *all the other times* he'd already been called out by name in personal essays as bad? I didn't. https://t.co/S8ondWp7sB— Scarydeath Maggoty (@manymanywords) October 11, 2018
a great way to mitigate the microscopic consequences of being on the List is to loudly remind everyone that you were on the List https://t.co/IoiOjvDRDY— Alfred Hitchcock Kleesents (@MilesKlee) October 11, 2018
Even the Rumpus, which Elliott founded, shared Donegan’s GoFundMe.
Moira Donegan, the creator of the Shitty Media Men List is being sued by one of the accused harassers, who is seeking at least $1.5 million in damages. He is former Editor in Chief at @The_Rumpus... who have just retweeted this crowdfunding appeal. https://t.co/gwB4vgsFl6— Stevie Mackenzie Smith (@dconfusion) October 12, 2018
Others wonder why Elliott would file the lawsuit in the first place. After all, he isn’t likely to win his case. Rather, some believe he wants to punish the list’s accusers and make future survivors scared to out their abusers.
"The suit seems so unlikely to be a winner that the motive seems like it almost HAS to be irrational, like it’s not about clearing his name but about making his name dangerous for others." https://t.co/efim0U2goC— Jessica Prois (@JessicaProis) October 12, 2018
i wanna know who’s funding this lawsuit https://t.co/Nno1zjv1zp— maya kosoff (@mekosoff) October 11, 2018
gonna start a gofundme for reward money for whoever names the person funding the shitty media men lawsuit— Jessica Blankenship (@blanketboat) October 12, 2018
Putting aside how anyone might feel about the List or any of the specific allegations on it... this lawsuit sets an absolutely chilling precedent that will hurt all women trying to protect themselves from predators. https://t.co/pPFvoLHaaE— Only using this platform for BOO-ms (@DavidKlion) October 11, 2018
One has to wonder if after the Kavanaugh confirmation, certain men are now feeling empowered to strike back at those who call them on their bad behavior: Writer named on Shitty Media Men list sues its creator https://t.co/jdTOvHNP9r— Karl Jacoby (@karl_jacoby) October 12, 2018
As for whether Elliott will be able to out any Jane Does, it seems unlikely. Not only was the original Shitty Media Men List was taken offline last year, deleted Google Drive data is removed within 15 days of its appearance. So unless the lawsuit emerged during the Shitty Media Men List’s creation, “the data they want is long gone,” the Verge’s policy editor Russell Brandom wrote in a tweet.
On the Shitty Media Men lawsuit:— Russell Brandom (@russellbrandom) October 11, 2018
Google’s policy is to remove deleted Drive data within 15 days, absent some sort of legal hold. So unless the Elliott legal team got this going before November 2017, the data they want is long gone.
We probably wouldn’t know if a hold had been put in place! But if it was, why wait so long before filing the complaint? MD went public in January.— Russell Brandom (@russellbrandom) October 11, 2018
Readers interested in donating to Donegan’s legal fund can visit the official GoFundMe page here.
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H/T the Cut
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.